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Three tacos at Mezcalero Cocina Mexicana.
Budget-friendly dining is still very filling at Mezcalero Cocina Mexicana.
Mezcalero Cocina Mexicana/Facebook

15 Excellent, Affordable Dining Options in the D.C. Area

Tacos, hefty sandwiches, and hot pots for a fraction of what it costs to eat elsewhere

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Budget-friendly dining is still very filling at Mezcalero Cocina Mexicana.
| Mezcalero Cocina Mexicana/Facebook

D.C.’s budget-friendly dining options run the gamut, offering a wealth of alternatives to the expense-account restaurants and tasting menu-only establishments that dot the local landscape. This list looks beyond pricey Michelin spots and review-laden heavy hitters. It’s a round-up of trusted eateries — serving everything from spicy hot pots to tacos that cost less than a Starbucks latté — that satisfy without draining the wallet. Here are over a dozen sound dining bets in and around the District.

Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; it may pose a risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial COVID transmission.

Don’t see a personal favorite on the list? Sound off in the comments or shoot us an email (dc@eater.com).

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Pupuseria La Familiar (Multiple locations)

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8145 Baltimore Ave K
College Park, MD 20740
(301) 474-8484
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This Salvadoran pupuseria has two locations (College Park and Wheaton), and is one of the region’s cheapest options for masa stuffed with cheese and other ingredients. There are traditional pupusas, like revuelta, as well as nontraditional, including a ham and chees pupusa that’s perfect after a late night at some of the College Park bars. The spot also has a huge menu of other affordable options, from soups to grilled platters.

2. Horace and Dickies

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6912 4th St NW
Washington, DC 20012
(202) 248-4265
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After being pushed out of its iconic H Street location after decades of business, the fried seafood dinners fortunately are still alive and well in Takoma Park. The neighborhood favorite is best known for its fried whiting and generous seafood dinners, but don’t miss the po’boy, gumbo, and banana pudding.

Horace and Dickie’s in D.C., Saturday at 2:30 p.m.
Fried fish is the favorite at Horace and Dickie’s.
Rey Lopez/Eater D.C.

3. Mezcalero Cocina Mexicana

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3714 14th St NW
Washington, D.C. 20010
(202) 815-4789
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The owners of El Sol also have an agave-fueled bar that sells regional dishes from different corners of Mexico, including huitlacoche, esquites, tacos, and ceviches ranging from $9 to $13.50 for lunch or dinner. Meanwhile, happy hour tequila and mezcal margaritas are just $6. There’s a location in Alexandria as well.

4. Amsterdam Falafelshop (Multiple locations)

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2425 18th St NW
Washington, D.C. 20009
(202) 234-1969
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This homegrown chain of meat-free, fast-casual restaurants serves fried falafel dressed with nearly two dozen toppings, plus French fries. The L’Enfant Plaza location is temporarily closed, but the AdMo location turns out stuffed falafel sandwiches and bowls from 11:30 to late night, seven days a week.

5. Stellina Pizzeria

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399 Morse St NE
Washington, DC 20002
(202) 851-3995
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With locations in NoMa, Arlington, and soon K Street, the excellent Stellina is worth seeking out for its top-value $20 aperitivo deal which includes a drink, 10-inch pizza, an arancini, mozzarella in carrozza, and a basket of chips. Additional drinks are $5. Happy hour is available Tuesday through Friday from 3 to 6 p.m.

6. A. Litteri

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517 Morse St NE
Washington, D.C. 20002
(202) 544-0184
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In addition to offering the best Italian wine selection outside of Italy, this iconic Northeast market/deli serves delicious (and affordable) subs and hot sandwiches like chicken parm that range from $5.99 to $9.55. A. Litteri also serves lasagna, pasta, and soups.

7. Julia's Empanadas (Multiple locations)

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1221 Connecticut Ave NW
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 861-8828
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This globally inspired bakery specializes in baked ($6 each) hand pies served throughout the day. Favorites include a Jamaican-style curried beef-filled offering, the stewed chicken-packed saltena, and a vegetarian option.

8. The Well Dressed Burrito

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1220 19th St NW
Washington, DC 22036
(202) 293-0515

Tucked behind a nondescript metal door in an alleyway, the decades-old Well Dressed Burrito does a ton of business anyway. Assorted variations of the namesake dish at this Dupont Circle grab-and-go standby start at $6.99 a pop. Or go all in on the one-pound “El Gordo” filled with marinated beef for an additional $1.99.

9. Duke's Grocery (Multiple locations)

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2000 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20006
(202) 733-3967
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Duke’s Grocery now has three locations in Foggy Bottom, Dupont Circle, and Woodley Park. This British-y menu has a “proper burger” that draws repeat fans and various Best Burger awards. The generous patty comes with mile-high toppings, packed between two brioche buns for $15.

10. Wiseguy NY Pizza (Multiple locations)

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300 Massachusetts Ave NW
Washington, D.C. 20001
(202) 408-7800
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For when nothing but a big, two-handed slice of New York-style pizza will do. This pizzeria also serves impressive garlic knots and a menu of cauliflower crust pies for gluten-free folks.

11. Chinatown Express

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746 6th St NW
Washington, D.C. 20001
(202) 638-0424
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Customers and passersby often stop to look at the noodles and dumplings being crafted by hand at this long-standing Chinatown spot. The steamed buns, dumplings, and fresh noodle soups are the move here.

Steamed pork buns.
Steamed pork buns are a favorite at Chinatown Express.
Chinatown Express/Facebook

12. Pho 75

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1721 Wilson Blvd
Arlington, VA 22209
(703) 525-7355
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This standby serves among the region’s best pho. What Pho75 may lack in atmosphere and service it more than makes up for in generous bowls of steaming rice noodle soup, with flavorful broth and fresh toppings.

Interior at Pho 75
Seating is at long, communal tables at Pho 75.
Pho 75/Facebook

13. Bayou Bakery

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1515 N Courthouse Rd
Arlington, VA 22201
(703) 243-2410
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Pastry chef-turned-restaurateur David Guas has been serving cooked-to-order beignets for almost a decade at his Arlington restaurant and cafe, and he has never changed the price: $3 for an order of three sugar-dusted, New Orleans-style fritters. This New Orleans-themed bake shop also serves solid, affordable sandwiches and breakfasts, like the $8 avocado Benedict.  

14. Mala Tang

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3434 Washington Blvd
Arlington, VA 22201
(703) 243-2381
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The late-night destination for bubbling Asian hot pot also offers a subscribe-and-save “Hot Pot Club” incentive for repeat customers.

15. Banh Mi DC Sandwich

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3103 Graham Rd #C
Falls Church, VA 22042
(703) 205-9300
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The traditional Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches at this cherished Falls Church eatery are equal parts affordable and fantastic. The extensive sandwich menu averages about $6.75 each

Banh Mi Bi
Banh Mi sandwiches are affordable and filling at Banh Mi DC.
Banh Mi DC Sandwich/Facebook

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1. Pupuseria La Familiar (Multiple locations)

8145 Baltimore Ave K, College Park, MD 20740

This Salvadoran pupuseria has two locations (College Park and Wheaton), and is one of the region’s cheapest options for masa stuffed with cheese and other ingredients. There are traditional pupusas, like revuelta, as well as nontraditional, including a ham and chees pupusa that’s perfect after a late night at some of the College Park bars. The spot also has a huge menu of other affordable options, from soups to grilled platters.

8145 Baltimore Ave K
College Park, MD 20740

2. Horace and Dickies

6912 4th St NW, Washington, DC 20012
Horace and Dickie’s in D.C., Saturday at 2:30 p.m.
Fried fish is the favorite at Horace and Dickie’s.
Rey Lopez/Eater D.C.

After being pushed out of its iconic H Street location after decades of business, the fried seafood dinners fortunately are still alive and well in Takoma Park. The neighborhood favorite is best known for its fried whiting and generous seafood dinners, but don’t miss the po’boy, gumbo, and banana pudding.

6912 4th St NW
Washington, DC 20012

3. Mezcalero Cocina Mexicana

3714 14th St NW, Washington, D.C. 20010

The owners of El Sol also have an agave-fueled bar that sells regional dishes from different corners of Mexico, including huitlacoche, esquites, tacos, and ceviches ranging from $9 to $13.50 for lunch or dinner. Meanwhile, happy hour tequila and mezcal margaritas are just $6. There’s a location in Alexandria as well.

3714 14th St NW
Washington, D.C. 20010

4. Amsterdam Falafelshop (Multiple locations)

2425 18th St NW, Washington, D.C. 20009

This homegrown chain of meat-free, fast-casual restaurants serves fried falafel dressed with nearly two dozen toppings, plus French fries. The L’Enfant Plaza location is temporarily closed, but the AdMo location turns out stuffed falafel sandwiches and bowls from 11:30 to late night, seven days a week.

2425 18th St NW
Washington, D.C. 20009

5. Stellina Pizzeria

399 Morse St NE, Washington, DC 20002

With locations in NoMa, Arlington, and soon K Street, the excellent Stellina is worth seeking out for its top-value $20 aperitivo deal which includes a drink, 10-inch pizza, an arancini, mozzarella in carrozza, and a basket of chips. Additional drinks are $5. Happy hour is available Tuesday through Friday from 3 to 6 p.m.

399 Morse St NE
Washington, DC 20002

6. A. Litteri

517 Morse St NE, Washington, D.C. 20002

In addition to offering the best Italian wine selection outside of Italy, this iconic Northeast market/deli serves delicious (and affordable) subs and hot sandwiches like chicken parm that range from $5.99 to $9.55. A. Litteri also serves lasagna, pasta, and soups.

517 Morse St NE
Washington, D.C. 20002

7. Julia's Empanadas (Multiple locations)

1221 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20036

This globally inspired bakery specializes in baked ($6 each) hand pies served throughout the day. Favorites include a Jamaican-style curried beef-filled offering, the stewed chicken-packed saltena, and a vegetarian option.

1221 Connecticut Ave NW
Washington, DC 20036

8. The Well Dressed Burrito

1220 19th St NW, Washington, DC 22036

Tucked behind a nondescript metal door in an alleyway, the decades-old Well Dressed Burrito does a ton of business anyway. Assorted variations of the namesake dish at this Dupont Circle grab-and-go standby start at $6.99 a pop. Or go all in on the one-pound “El Gordo” filled with marinated beef for an additional $1.99.

1220 19th St NW
Washington, DC 22036

9. Duke's Grocery (Multiple locations)

2000 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20006

Duke’s Grocery now has three locations in Foggy Bottom, Dupont Circle, and Woodley Park. This British-y menu has a “proper burger” that draws repeat fans and various Best Burger awards. The generous patty comes with mile-high toppings, packed between two brioche buns for $15.

2000 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20006

10. Wiseguy NY Pizza (Multiple locations)

300 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington, D.C. 20001

For when nothing but a big, two-handed slice of New York-style pizza will do. This pizzeria also serves impressive garlic knots and a menu of cauliflower crust pies for gluten-free folks.

300 Massachusetts Ave NW
Washington, D.C. 20001

11. Chinatown Express

746 6th St NW, Washington, D.C. 20001
Steamed pork buns.
Steamed pork buns are a favorite at Chinatown Express.
Chinatown Express/Facebook

Customers and passersby often stop to look at the noodles and dumplings being crafted by hand at this long-standing Chinatown spot. The steamed buns, dumplings, and fresh noodle soups are the move here.

746 6th St NW
Washington, D.C. 20001

12. Pho 75

1721 Wilson Blvd, Arlington, VA 22209
Interior at Pho 75
Seating is at long, communal tables at Pho 75.
Pho 75/Facebook

This standby serves among the region’s best pho. What Pho75 may lack in atmosphere and service it more than makes up for in generous bowls of steaming rice noodle soup, with flavorful broth and fresh toppings.

1721 Wilson Blvd
Arlington, VA 22209

13. Bayou Bakery

1515 N Courthouse Rd, Arlington, VA 22201

Pastry chef-turned-restaurateur David Guas has been serving cooked-to-order beignets for almost a decade at his Arlington restaurant and cafe, and he has never changed the price: $3 for an order of three sugar-dusted, New Orleans-style fritters. This New Orleans-themed bake shop also serves solid, affordable sandwiches and breakfasts, like the $8 avocado Benedict.  

1515 N Courthouse Rd
Arlington, VA 22201

14. Mala Tang

3434 Washington Blvd, Arlington, VA 22201

The late-night destination for bubbling Asian hot pot also offers a subscribe-and-save “Hot Pot Club” incentive for repeat customers.

3434 Washington Blvd
Arlington, VA 22201

15. Banh Mi DC Sandwich

3103 Graham Rd #C, Falls Church, VA 22042
Banh Mi Bi
Banh Mi sandwiches are affordable and filling at Banh Mi DC.
Banh Mi DC Sandwich/Facebook

The traditional Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches at this cherished Falls Church eatery are equal parts affordable and fantastic. The extensive sandwich menu averages about $6.75 each

3103 Graham Rd #C
Falls Church, VA 22042

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